Saturday, January 30, 2010

On the Road Again. And Again, And Again

Miles driven this week: 616
Hours spent driving this week: 11
Times the radio played "Celebrate Good Times": 2
Times the radio played "Lucky Star" by Madonna: 3

I would just like to say that any station playing "Celebrate Good Times" more than once in a week does not so much inspire celebration for the song as celebration for when the song ends.

Although I have only been in Michigan for a few months, I have come to the conclusion that Michiganders are by far and wide the worst drivers I've experienced. Nothing personal to those I know; most of my beef is with the strangers. The used Cadillac-driving, bluetooth wearing, blindly texting strangers. I've had my share of experience with drivers, too, so this conclusion was not reached based on lack of exposure. Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Washington DC---I've been around the block--driving around it, obviously--and you mitten dwellers take the cake. But it's not as though you're all afflicted with one symptom that universally binds you together. Rather, most of you seem to fall into one of the following categories:

The Rebel Driver. Oh, you rogue, you. When you get behind the wheel, you rev your engine and repeat the mantra "No mercy!" over and over again. As you merge onto I-94, you stealthily swerve past those fools driving the speed limit (or ten miles over). You call no lane your home, but rather bob in and out of them--because wherever you have to be, you have to be at in the next 30 seconds or the little girl gets it. I understand.

The Anarchist Driver. Like the Rebel Driver, you are most likely responsible for the chest pains your driver's education instructor now has to take blood pressure meds to control. But unlike the Rebel Driver, you are ever so slightly more calculated in your maneuvers, although these maneuvers fly directly in the face of what the conformists call "the rules." For you, the far right lane is only for passing. Those conventionalists in the passing lane aren't going your speed, and nothing is worse than having to push on your brake to disengage your cruise control. I understand.

The Geriatric Driver, or, alternatively, Captain Oblivious. Where the Rebel and the Anarchist can't wait to push their accelerators into the ground, you not only tend to ride the brakes (just to be on the safe side), but you neither can identify where nor how to use your cruise control. If you did use it, you might mistake it for auto pilot. This name is slightly misleading, however, as this style of driving does not strike only the elderly. In my opinion, it's more a lack of awareness that leads to your driving style. Anywhere but the road in front of you is where your gaze wanders: the field to your left, the roadkill to your right, the floor of the passenger's seat, your fingernails. As a result, your speedometer typically dips to a speed at which the semis start passing you, which makes the Rebel Driver's job of weaving in and out of lanes a bit more difficult. You should not try to cultivate a romantic relationship with the Rebel Driver.

Commander Oblivious. Unlike the Captains, you Commanders are still relatively new to the road, and honing your abilities to pay attention to anything except driving. Your medium of choice? The cell phone. If you're not texting, you might as well be driving. Oh, wait. That's what you're supposed to be doing. Get this thought and any other cognitive dissonance out of your mind soon, otherwise you may never reach the rank of Captain.

Someday people will be reminded that driving is, actually, an active task that we share with thousands of others, and thus, we have a responsibility when we get behind the wheel. But there's no fun in that, so I guess for now, I'll just have to work on my own style of driving, The Intolerant Driver.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Already, three months have passed. And I have left home, found an apartment (after many nights of confusion and short math equations figuring out just how much I ought to spend on rent), am aunt to a pet Havanese, started my job, and fallen in love with a fantastic fellow. Not bad, for a 90-day hiatus.

Clearly, I transitioned quickly, and I do not have any regrets in that department. In fact, as past precedent would show, a transition that drags its feet is agonizing for me. But to be honest, I have never dived into a transition so quickly, never truly seen how fast I could go from 0 to 60. Now I know, and as a consequence, my foresight has been blurred. Not the foresight I should have had before I jumped off the springboard, but rather, the tool of foresight itself. I'm finding it harder and harder to see anything except what's right in front of me. Which, you know, some would say is a good thing--"Live in the moment"--but this is living in the moment at its most rigid. Living in the moment because trying to live outside of it would mean being unable to fulfill my one true purpose for coming here: my job.

Time to stop speaking in vague terms. My job is insanity. Am I thankful to have it? Yes. Do I enjoy the work I do? Absolutely. But I didn't quite know just how much I'd be molding the lab, what happens in the lab, and how the entire study I'm working on is organized. Honestly, though, I can handle the work. It's not my first time on this ride, and I've certainly been busy like this in the past (albeit not quite as consistently). What seems to be more problematic is how it's rocking my life outside of work, the life that should be spent decompressing and relaxing. Instead, work seeps into that life, constantly triggering small alarm bells in my head. *Don't forget!* *Email him soon!* *What's the status on...* Etc., etc., etc.

In college, this seemed to be less of a problem, because the busyness required of classes and extracurriculars was part and parcel of your life. There was no "work life" and "personal life" dichotomy. Everyone was on the same boat, studying for exams, reading articles, writing papers, and finding time to have some fun, and as such, dividing a strict line between these two parts of life seemed unnecessary. They simply meshed together. Now, things feel different. For some reason, things feel as though they need to be more compartmentalized than that.

I thought I was handling it okay until it hit the one place I most certainly did not want it to hit: my relationship. He said it to me flat out last night, "You're stressed all the time about the lab." He wasn't accusing or judgmental or disappointed, he was just stating the obvious (and also calling out my obvious self-denial about it). Nonetheless, I was disappointed in myself. I grew up in a household with a mother who was constantly working--working in the literal sense, as her job has always been a 60-70 hour a week commitment--but also working to maintain solid relationships with her children and husband. I want to work, and I want to work hard. But I want my job to remain within the four walls of my office. I want to come home and not compulsively run a mental list of what's left to do that I couldn't do today.

And so, I find myself needing to adopt a new outlook. An outlook to match my new, post-college life. The winner? A combination of wisdom passed onto me by my father and none other than the iconic Scarlett O'Hara. "I can't worry about that now," she says. "I'll worry about that tomorrow." The life I cultivate outside of work is just as important as the work ethic I'm cultivating with my first job. That we feel we can shelve our personal lives, deem them disposable before anything else, is another symptom of our culture's obsession with efficiency and hard work. One should not look at a well-lived life outside of the office and think it inherently means their work life is lagging. There must be a balance. I have to believe there is a balance. It's just a matter of keeping myself in check.

To do that? I've turned the email notification off on my phone. Last night, I shut the Internet down on my laptop and baked bread and cooked soup. (All while watching "Julie and Julia," how perfect is that?) I'm now recognizing that I need to stop bullying myself about exercise or downtime and just make it happen. This morning I woke up and did yoga for the first time in weeks. My spine was killing me, but it still felt fantastic. These things may feel small, but they're all means toward one end: taking a mental hiatus from work. Being able to shut my brain off and just be. The work that's left to do will get done. I won't let anything other than that happen, but I need to recognize that running at sprint speed is unsustainable. Slow and steady, right?